Liver cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the cells of the liver. The liver is a large organ located on the upper right side of the abdomen and functions to filter toxins from the blood, produce bile, and store carbohydrates and fats. There are several different types of liver cancer, including hepatocellular carcinoma, cholangiocarcinoma, and hepatoblastoma.
Liver Cancer Treatment in Tucson, AZ
What is Liver Cancer?
Liver cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the cells of the liver. The most common type of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma, which accounts for about three-quarters of all liver cancers. Liver cancer can also be divided into primary and secondary types. Primary liver cancer starts in the liver, while secondary liver cancer starts in another part of the body and then spreads to the liver. Liver cancer is more common in men than in women and is most often diagnosed in people over the age of 60.
Risk factors for liver cancer include cirrhosis, hepatitis B and C, excessive alcohol consumption, and a family history of the disease. Symptoms of liver cancer can include fatigue, weight loss, abdominal pain, and jaundice. Liver cancer is usually diagnosed with a combination of imaging tests and biopsies. Treatment for liver cancer may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Types of Liver Cancer
There are two types of primary liver cancer: hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma. Secondary metastatic liver cancer occurs when cancer spreads to the liver from other parts of the body.
- Hepatocellular carcinoma – The most commonly found liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma, which originates from mutated cells within the liver. Fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma (FHCC) is a very extraordinary and rare form of this disease that can be diagnosed by observing fibrous bands throughout the tumor cells.
- Cholangiocarcinoma – This is a form of liver cancer that occurs in the ducts which drain bile from the liver to the small intestine. This rare form of primary liver cancer is diagnosed by doctors in between 2,000 and 3,000 people each year in just the United States alone.
- Metastatic liver cancer – This is secondary cancer. It develops when tumor cells have spread to the liver from other parts of the body.
What are the symptoms of Liver Cancer?
The majority of people with primary liver cancer do not have symptoms or indicators during the early phases. When signs and symptoms do appear, they might include:
- Suddenly losing weight
- Losing your appetite
- Pain in the upper abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- General weakness and fatigue
- Swelling in your abdomen
- White and chalky stools
How is Liver cancer diagnosed?
Liver cancer can be diagnosed through various tests and procedures, such as:
- Blood tests: Liver function problems may be discovered through blood tests.
- Blood tests: Liver function problems may be discovered through blood tests.
- Removing a sample of liver tissue for testing: Sometimes it’s necessary to take a sample of liver tissue for laboratory testing in order to establish a definitive diagnosis of liver cancer.
During a liver biopsy, your doctor inserts a thin needle through your skin and into your liver to collect a tissue sample. To find out whether you have cancer cells, doctors examine the sample under a microscope in the laboratory. Bleeding, bruising, and infection are all possible complications of this procedure.
There are four stages of Liver cancer:
The BCLC system ranks the severity of HCC by the tumor’s characteristics, how well the liver is functioning, how cancer impacts daily activities and performance (the patient’s status), and what symptoms are present. There are different stage groupings that include:
- Very early stage: The tumor is less than 2 centimeters in size. The portal vein does not have any greater pressure, which is one of the liver’s main blood vessels. Bilirubin levels are normal, suggesting that there is no bilirubin buildup in the body. Surgery is usually advised as a result of these findings.
- Early stage: The tumor is 5 cm or less. Liver function varies and portal vein pressure may be increased along with bilirubin levels, or just the latter two. People with early-stage disease who are good candidates for a liver transplant, surgery, or radiofrequency ablation (RFA).
- Intermediate stage: The tumor may be small, or there may be several tumors. In most cases, doctors recommend administering local therapies such as transarterial chemoembolization.
- Advanced stage: If the tumor has invaded the portal vein or metastasized to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, lungs, and bones, targeted therapy is usually recommended.
What are the treatments for Liver cancer?
There are several treatment options available for primary liver cancer, which will depend on the stage of the disease and your age and overall health. Ultimately, the decision rests with you and what you feel comfortable with.
- Surgery to remove the tumor: If your tumor is small and your liver function is excellent, your doctor may advise you to have an operation to remove the liver cancer and a little amount of healthy liver tissue that surrounds it if the tumor is tiny.
- Liver transplant surgery: Your diseased liver is removed during a liver transplant and replaced with a healthy one from a donor. Liver transplant surgery is only accessible to a small percentage of individuals with early-stage liver cancer.
- Heating cancer cells: Radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, damages cancer cells using extreme heat. Your doctor will locate the tumor with an imaging test like ultrasound before making tiny incisions in your abdomen and inserting one or more thin needles into them. The needles carry an electric current that produces enough heat to destroy nearby cancer cells when it reaches the tumor. Microwaves or lasers might be used to burn away other tumorous tissues surrounding the main mass.
- Freezing cancer cells: Cancer cells are destroyed using cryoablation, which employs intense cold. Your doctor uses an instrument (cryoprobe) filled with liquid nitrogen to target liver tumors during the treatment. The cryoprobe is guided by ultrasound images to ensure that the cells are adequately frozen.
- Injecting alcohol into the tumor: Alcohol injections are used to treat a range of cancers, including breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), and liver cancer. Alcohol is injected directly into tumors using either the skin or during surgery. Tumors die as a result of alcohol administration.
- Injecting chemotherapy drugs into the liver: Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses cancer-killing chemicals (chemo) to enter the bloodstream, where they are distributed around the body. Chemoembolization is an example of chemotherapy that delivers strong anti-cancer medication directly to the liver.
- Placing beads filled with radiation in the liver: If you have liver cancer, your doctor may recommend a treatment that involves placing tiny spheres containing radiation directly into your liver. This type of radiotherapy can deliver high doses of radiation directly to the tumor, with fewer side effects than traditional methods.
- Radiation therapy: This treatment uses high-powered energy from sources such as X-rays and protons to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. Doctors carefully direct the energy only to the liver while sparing all of the surrounding healthy tissue.
- Targeted drug therapy: Because of the vast number and variety of different types of cancer cells, targeted medications are designed to target specific abnormalities found in these cells. By preventing these flaws, targeted drug treatments can induce cancer cells to perish.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy employs your immune system to combat cancer. Because the cancer cells produce chemicals that block the immune system cells, your body’s disease-fighting immunological defense may not attack your cancer. Interference with this mechanism is how immunotherapy works.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a treatment for cancer that uses chemicals to destroy rapidly growing cells, including cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given intravenously in your arm or as a pill, and it can also be used together with other treatments.
What are the side effects of Liver cancer treatment?
Cancer treatment aims to achieve good results, such as finding and removing the tumor, decreasing tumor size, and preventing recurrence. Many of the processes utilized to achieve this have their own set of difficulties for our bodies. Prior knowledge about what to anticipate aids in treatment selection and obtaining the support you need to cope with these side effects.
Fatigue: The most frequent consequence of cancer therapy, this tiredness is not the same as that felt by healthy individuals. It can be caused by any sort of cancer treatment.
Pain: Tumors, surgery, and other cancer treatments can all produce discomfort.
Chemotherapy side effects:
- Low blood counts: A common side-effect of chemotherapy is a drop in both red and white blood cells, which increases the risk for infection and anemia.
- Nausea and vomiting: Siteman has considerable experience managing cancer therapy, so you can continue living your normal life.
- Peripheral neuropathy: Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a condition that includes numbness, tingling, and pain as a result of nerve damage in the hands and feet.
A side effect fact sheet specific to the type of treatment you’re receiving should be available at your doctor’s office.
Side effects from liver transplant: Some of the immunosuppressive drugs used to prevent organ rejection can have harsh side effects. Be sure to ask your doctor about what you should expect.
Sleep disorders: Sleep may be disturbed by cancer, pain, or other medicines or therapies in individuals with cancer.
What is the role of radiation therapy in Liver Cancer?
Radiation therapy works by using high-energy rays or particles to kill cancer cells. This treatment method may not be recommended for patients with extensive liver damage due to diseases such as hepatitis or cirrhosis. However, radiation can be helpful in treating the following:
- Cancer of the liver that has spread despite surgery.
- Liver cancer that is not treatable with ablation or embolization, or cancer that did not respond well to those treatments.
- Liver cancer that has metastasized to other areas, such as the brain or bones
- People suffering from large liver cancers.
- Accumulation of tumor cells around the portal vein (a cluster of liver cancer cells).
What is the prognosis for someone with Liver cancer?
This year, an estimated 41,260 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with primary liver cancer. This is a significant increase from 1980, when only 12,660 women were diagnosed. However, the rates have stabilized recently. Between 2013 and 2017, incidence rates increased by approximately 2% annually in women– though men’s remained steady.
Sadly, men are almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with liver cancer than women. According to recent estimates, 905,677 people were diagnosed with the disease in 2020 alone.
In the United States this year, it is estimated that 30,520 deaths (20,420 men and 10,100 women) from liver cancer will occur. For men, liver cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer death. It is the seventh most common cause of cancer death among women.
The liver cancer death rate increased dramatically between 1980 and 2013 but has since stabilized. This is due in part to advances in treatment options, as well as earlier detection through screenings.
Liver cancer is the third most fatal cancer globally, with a predicted 830,180 deaths in 2020. Contrastingly, it is less common in developed countries such as America- however, in some African and Asian countries, it flourishes as the number one cancer type.
The 5-year survival rate is the number of people who live at least five years after cancerous cells is discovered out of 100 individuals. In the United States, the general 5-year survival rate was 20 percent 40 years ago and has since increased to 30 percent. However, this number varies based on other dependencies, such as the stage of diagnosis.
The 5-year survival rate for those diagnosed with early-stage liver cancer is 35%. If cancer has metastasized, the 5-year survival rate plummets to 12% or 3%, depending on how far it has progressed.
Even if the disease is discovered in a more advanced stage, however, several people with liver cancer may benefit from treatments that allow them to live with little difference in their quality of life than before their diagnosis, at least for some time. If surgery is an option, it typically leads to better survival rates throughout the disease’s stages.
Risk Factors for Liver Cancer
The following are some of the primary risk factors for developing liver cancer:
- Chronic infection with HBV or HCV: Having hepatitis B or C raises your chance of liver cancer.
- Cirrhosis: Because your lobule is gradually shutting down, scar tissue begins to build up in your liver and raises the chance of developing liver cancer.
- Certain inherited liver diseases: There are two diseases that can increase your risk of developing liver cancer: hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease.
- Diabetes: People with diabetes have a greater chance of developing liver cancer than those without blood sugar disorders.
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: Fat accumulation in the liver raises the danger of liver cancer.
- Exposure to aflatoxins: Crops that are not stored properly can result in the growth of mold, which produces aflatoxins. Aflatoxins infect grains and nuts, which then end up in consumer foods.
- Excessive alcohol consumption: It has been linked to an increased occurrence of liver tumors. Consuming more than a moderate amount of alcohol on a daily basis for many years can result in irreversible liver damage and raise your risk of liver cancer.
How can you reduce your risk of getting Liver cancer?
Here are some of the ways you can reduce your risk of getting liver cancer: Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver and increases your risk of developing liver cancer. You can lower your chances of cirrhosis by:
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit yourself to one or two drinks. For women, this means no more than one alcoholic beverage per day. This refers to men only.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re already at a healthy weight, make sure to stay there by eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly. If you need to shed some pounds, cut down on how much you eat each day while upping your exercise regimen. A slow and steady approach is usually best — lose 1 or 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kg) every week.
- Get vaccinated against hepatitis B.
- Ask your doctor about liver cancer screening.
We are here to help
At our hospital, we understand how terrifying a lung cancer diagnosis can be. However, you can rest assured knowing that our team of experienced professionals will do everything in their power to ensure you receive the best possible treatment. We believe that each patient is unique and deserves personalized care, which is why we work with every individual to develop a customized plan suited for their specific situation.
If you’re feeling lost and alone, please don’t hesitate to call us. We will help you create a treatment plan that gives you the best chance for recovery, whether it’s surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy. No challenge is too great for us to handle together.